“Gentlemen, this is a football.”

by | Jan 16, 2020 | Leadership

Vince Lombardi, 1961. (Image Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette Archive)

“Gentlemen, this is a football.”

It’s become one of the most famous quotes in sports. And for good reason. At the beginning of every new NFL season in the 1960s, Vince Lombardi, head coach of the Green Bay Packers (and often a defending national champion from the previous year) would never assume everyone was on the same page. He relentlessly brought his team of giant professional athletes back to the basics of their game, every year.

And year after year, the Packers would win. 

Like Vince Lombardi did sixty years ago, leaders of modern organizations must own two jobs that are impossible to delegate. The first is to define the game their organization is playing. The second is to enable the right capabilities to win in that game. Especially these days, pursuing one or the other won’t cut it for long.

Your roadmaps and plans should weave your strategic vision, core capabilities, and outcomes together like the shoelaces on an athlete’s pair of cleats. Below is a simple tool we use with leadership teams, called the Strategy Delivery Compass, to help them assess their organization’s current level of readiness to win their game, and to orient their next conversations around ideas and activities that will prepare them to win.

“Leaders of modern organizations must own two jobs that are impossible to delegate. The first is to define the game their organization is playing. The second is to enable the right capabilities to win in that game.”

Everything in your organization that doesn’t line up with your path to strategic results can be put in categories like “noise”, “waste”, and “impediments”. Of course, the expensive but often quiet danger is that if leaders do not consistently bring their teams back to the basics of their game, they will spend a lot of their time and resources doing things that don’t actually prepare their teams to win.

This is obviously much easier to describe than it is to actually pull off. It takes conviction and humility to do what Lombardi did. But whether you’re a CEO or business unit leader, it is essential. In future posts, I will share in more detail how to assess your organization’s readiness to win at its game, and offer steps you can take to move your company into the upper-right quadrant of the Strategy Delivery Compass, where it can win year after year.

Joseph Villanueva

Joe is the founder of Edifiers Consulting. He has helped companies in cybersecurity, software, healthcare, logistics, manufacturing, and others create clarity in their strategy and prepare their teams to win.

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Edifiers Consulting

We are a management consulting firm based in El Paso, Texas, with a talent network across San Diego, Denver, and Dallas. We help leaders deliver awesome projects, streamline valuable processes, and build stronger teams. We mobilize people, technology, and data to turn your business goals into real results.

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